For every 100 orphaned children in other countries, 99 will never find parents to adopt them; 75 of those 100 children will not live to reach their teenage years. The statistics for children with disabilities are even more grim. But sometimes miracles happen, and for Evelyn, Hudson, Owen, Reagan, and Carrington Burman, their miracle was in the form of Shelly and Bryan Burman.
It’s a normal day in the Burman household; Owen sits in his high chair for a meal, Evelyn and Hudson are chowing down on crackers, Reagan is zooming around the room in her chair, and Carrington is sitting in her mother’s lap chattering away. This household is unique in one special way – these five children were adopted from the Ukraine, and they all have Down’s syndrome. “We expect our kids to do everything. They’re going to do it differently; they’re going to take longer. They need to fit in the world in their way,” says Shelly, mother to her two biological and five adopted children.
The triplets, as Shelly calls them, because they are so close in age, are Evelyn, Hudson, and Owen. Evelyn is an adorable blonde with sparkling eyes, has been diagnosed with severe autism. She came to the Burmans uncommunicative and unresponsive to stimuli. Hudson has a contagious grin and laughing gray eyes; he is deaf, and walks with the assistance of a child-size walker. Owen is a charmer, and he loves to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat; he has a severe digestive condition that requires tube feeding through his “G-button”, and a sensory processing disorder that often causes him to feel over stimulated by his surroundings.
Reagan is a graceful, expressive young girl with a sunny smile, who loves to play games on mom’s phone, and zoom around the room in her wheelchair; she has spina bifida, and wears braces on her feet. She recently received very first pair of tennis shoes – pink sneakers with sparkles and stars.
Carrington, the youngest of the children, has dark brown curls and cherubic rosy cheeks. She spent five weeks in the hospital upon her arrival home for treatment for severe malnutrition and acetone poisoning, the results of her tragic experience in the foreign orphanage.
With the services offered through Helping Restore Ability, the Burman family receives assistance from their two attendants, Dana and Caitlyn. Dana has been with the family since 2010, helping care for all of the children throughout the day; Caitlyn, a recent addition, is teaching the whole family sign language so that everyone can communicate together. The attendants feed, change, and assist the children with all aspects of their day, but that’s not the end of it. They sing songs, play games, and interact with them, growing their minds and guiding them to a healthy future. According to Shelly, Helping Restore Ability “has helped our kids to realize that nothing is impossible. Our kids are learning that ‘I’m possible’.”
When Shelly speaks about her children, you hear her love and compassion, but also her determination to help them grow into capable adults. She and Brian want the focus to be on their children, and their potential as people. “Our children are going to be independent about their life,” and Helping Restore Ability is going to be there for them, to help support every big and small step of their journey.